When my sister was about seven, my mom decided to trim her bangs for her. But my sister couldn’t hold still, and kept drooping her head further and further down, until… When she lifted her face, she had a spiky, fuzzy buzz cut framing her forehead!
I told this story to my hairstylist, Eric Carter, the last time I was in his chair, getting my own bangs trimmed. I was laughing hysterically in the telling, as big sisters do at a sibling’s hilarious misfortune. But Eric was not amused! In fact, he was cringing, and visibly uncomfortable, and saying, “People shouldn’t cut their own hair,” as he carefully attended to mine with obvious skill and practice. That’s when it dawned on me that I feel the same way when people talk about using their point-and-shoot vacation snapshots on their holiday cards.
Sure, the likes of holiday card print services such as Cocodot, Mango Ink and Tiny Prints will help make the most of a pic with their lovely, colorful designs. But a poorly angled, unsophisticated composition or inauthentic expression will not improve itself simply because there’s a pretty box around it, any more than putting gel in my sister’s hair would make her bangs grow back.
A customized family portrait shoot with an experienced, professional photographer who can tell your family’s story visually goes a long way in elevating the loving attention that will come across in your holiday cards. Why is this important? It is the one time of year when despite the ups and downs of life and between family members, many of us aim to truly connect with our loved ones, and show them the appreciation and love we have in our own lives by sharing it with them. In a lot of instances, we are doing this remotely via our holiday cards, and following up with a phone call or visit. Or, sometimes, it’s just the card that has to do all the work of sharing the subtleties our life’s loves and joys.
We live in a culture inundated with images. It’s easy to take for granted that what an image says to us is being universally conveyed. Because we see so many images that have been carefully crafted to convey their message, we assume that it is simply “imagery” itself that conveys messages. However, a lot of craft goes into getting an image to express what one wants the viewer to receive, and just pointing the camera at the subject is not enough to make people understand the profound love felt for that subject. The skill to create a loving feeling, inviting the viewer to connect to the subject of a photo, is something that professionals dedicate their lives to developing the ability to do consistently.
While I don’t expect that everyone will know how to appreciate my own photographic work from a fine art standpoint, I do see how it reaches them, in that ethereal way that art does. People may not be able to describe it in words, but they’ll hold your card in their hands a little longer. It will be the one on the fridge they stop and stare at. It will touch them. They will know that you invested in trying to reach out to them.
When you take the time to connect with the people in your life this holiday season, make it clear that you’ve put in the effort to share a deeply caring feeling, expressing the essence of who you are as a family. To do that, I recommend sending a carefully crafted memoir of your life, and I am happy to speak with you about how to do so — just email me. By the way, feel free to use Cocodot, Mango Ink or Tiny Prints. Their designs will look that much better accentuating a stunning family portrait.